Radio Rage

Just imagine for a moment, that you are watching a good, old fashioned, romantic movie. How about Brief Encounter? Rachmaninov is doing his spendid tear jerking stuff in the background, and Celia Johnson is talking about an ordinary men in an ordinary mec and then quite suddenly, in the middle of all this, up pops a musicologist (I envisage him in faded cords, and a kipper tie, and wild hair) and starts to rabbit on about Rachmaninov, his life history, and the interpretation of his music. Startled out of your absorption, you spend the minute or two that he is lecturing at you thinking 'what the hell...?' so you don't actually hear what he is saying. Thankfully, he shuts up, and you slide back into the movie, only this time, you're a wee bit rattled, so it takes a little longer to get back into it. So long in fact, that by the time you've settled down, he's at it again. 'At this point in Rachmaninov's career....' he says, interrupting poor Celia in mid speech.
By the end of the movie, and if you haven't already given up on it, you are incandescent with rage. Nor have you absorbed even a hint of information about Rachmaninov. All you want to do is throttle the commentator, slowly, with his own tie.
If the same thing happened in a theatre, I doubt if the musicologist would get away unscathed. I suppose the audience might just think he was part of the play of course, and it would be alright if he was part of the play, a well written, well rounded character of the kind that Brian Friel does so brilliantly - in other words, part of the playwright's vision.
But I don't mean that, at all. I mean a perfectly good drama, ruined by some 'expert' constantly interrupting the play with a parallel and utterly distracting commentary.
And yet BBC Radio inflicts these abominations on us over and over again. Yesterday, there was one more. An absorbing and rather moving love story was spoiled by an intermittent lecture on the music that was part of the theme of the play. What in God's name was the point? All we needed was what the writer had already created - a character who knew about the music in question and could talk about it, eloquently, but more importantly in character.
To invade the audience's suspension of disbelief, time and time again, is nothing short of madness.
So why on earth do they do it?
It shows such a profound ignorance of how drama works that one is forced into the assumption that the only reason for it can be as a money saving exercise - fewer minutes of actual drama to be paid for. But surely this can't be the case? And even if it was the case, wouldn't it be better to have a shorter, uninterrupted play, followed by a talk about the music for those who want to listen? Or are we - in this increasingly didactic and prescriptive age - to have the academic perspective thrust at us, whether we like it or not, on the principle that a spoonful of dramatic sugar will help the unpalatable but worthy medicine go down?

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